From the moment you started law school, people have been crawling out of the woodwork to tell you the secret of success as a lawyer. From your Great Uncle Herbert to the 3Ls loitering in the common areas, everyone has a completely different answer. Some will tell you public interest is the only way to go, as we have an obligation to leave the world a better place. Others are convinced that the prestige of BigLaw is the only way to make it in this world. But what about the ivory tower of academia? That is where true brilliance shines. Oh but America was built by entrepreneurs. If you don’t own your own firm, then you have achieved nothing. And so on.
If you are confused by all this, it is time to rest easy. I have the answer to happiness and success as lawyer–all of the above.
The one thing I have learned as a practicing attorney is that there are happy and miserable attorneys in all sorts of environments. The trick is finding where you fit in. Some of my peers managed to do that in their first job out of law school, while others of us had to bounce around to find a good fit. In my case, I have worked in a large firm, a small firm and in government. In each of these jobs I saw that there were happy lawyers and miserable lawyers. Not surprisingly, the happy lawyers who had found a good fit between their personalities and their work environments also tended to be the successful lawyers.
So how do you find your place in the legal world? Most lawyers really like talking about themselves and are happy to share their life lessons with the next generation of lawyers. It makes us feel important to share our experiences so you are really doing a good deed by asking us. And just keep on trying—if your first job is not a right fit, use that experience to find something that is a better fit. Each job provides unique opportunities that will help you figure out your next step. It might not happen right away, but eventually you will find your niche where happiness and career success await. You just have to figure out what works for your own unique set of talents and interests. As Dr. Seuss advised, “You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”